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Behind the Candy – An Interview with Russ Sifers of VALOMILK
In the 1980s my grandmother went to visit some family members out in the great middle of our country. When she came back she brought pictures of relatives I had never seen and more importantly she brought gifts (c’mon I was a kid). She had a t-shirt and this weird cork shotgun that I played with all summer, but the gift that made the greatest impression was a paper bag full of VALOMILKS.
I was not sure how I would feel about these candies, she referred to them as Marshmallow peanut butter cups, but one bite and I was sold. She was right in thinking I would like them, but wrong in comparing them to peanut butter cups. The only thing these delicious treats have in common with other “cup-based” candies is the cup. VALOMILK have a firm dark milk chocolate exterior and a velvety marshmallow cream interior and it wasn’t like any marshmallow I had ever tasted. It was smooth, not chewy and when you ate it just right, the marshmallow combined with the chocolate to create a symphony of texture and flavor.
I was in love. I remembering asking the guy who ran our local candy store about them all the time, but he would just look at me like I had two heads. It was hard for me to understand supply chains and regional markets, no matter how many times my mother tried to explain it. It would be 3 years before I got my 2nd VALOMILK fix (family road trip) and another 2 after that until I could procure a fairly steady supply. Well over a decade has passed now and not a month has gone by without me eating a VALOMILK. I guess you could say I was a fan from bite one.
As a fanboy, I was overjoyed that Russ Sifers, the man who saved VALOMILK, took some time out from his busy schedule to talk with me about the candy he helped revive.
Thanks for taking the time to meet with me, Mr. Sifers. Can you tell us a little about VALOMILK and your families’ involvement?
This is covered on our “History” page but I will add to it. I was born into the business 61 years ago when my mother took me to the factory at age six weeks in a basket. My grandfather took me upstairs and proudly showed me to every employee. I was the first grandson and my grandfather declared me the heir apparent. I am the fourth generation to run the candy company although I prefer the title Steward to any normal business title such as CEO or president. After graduating from KU I joined the company which had been sold in a merger. The company was later shut down in 1981 and I resurrected it in 1985 and hope to keep it in the family for many more generations.
What do you think is the appeal of VALOMILK to today’s candy consumers?
VALOMILK Candy Cups are made with the finest all-natural ingredients. We use my grandfather’s original 1931 recipe. The chocolate is darker than most milk chocolates and the creamy flowing center is unique. It has a nostalgic appeal to those who grew up with VALOMILKS in the Midwest as well as those who are experiencing VALOMILKS for the first time.
What is the #1 comment you get from people who have just discovered or rediscovered VALOMILK?
For those who have rediscovered our VALOMILKS it is “just like I remembered” and for those who have discovered VALOMILKS for the first time it is “oh my, these are good!”
Their are so many mentions of VALOMILK online and a great selection of places to purchase it online. Has the internet been a useful for VALOMILK? Do you get a lot of positive feedback from the web?
We put our website up 10 years ago to tell our story and to help people find our VALOMILK Candy Cups. We are currently designing a new website with the same intent. VALOMILKS have been featured on TV, cable, radio, books, magazines, newspapers, and even the stage. The internet allows people to contact us after seeing VALOMILKS. I answer every email, letter, and phone call. The stories people tell me are heartwarming and we have a few of them on our Stories page.
Obviously VALOMILKS must be your favorite candy. Is their another candy you enjoy partaking of besides VALOMILK?
We have many old-time candy companies linked on our “Other Companies” page and I like all their candy but I am particularly fond of Pearson’s Nut Roll. I take them when I play golf.
Do you have a “lost candy memory” (a candy that is no longer made) that you wish you could have just one more time?
Our family made so many candy bars over the last 100 years. Unfortunately, I did not get to try them. VALOMILK was such a success that by the time I came around after WWII they were all gone. We had names like Lucky Lindy, Casey at the Bat, Old King Tut, Fumbles, Race Horse, Chicken, Jersey Cow, Subway Sadie, KC Bar, Honeysuckle, Snow Cup, Rough Neck, Ozark Ridge, Black Walnut, and probably many, many more that I have yet to discover. We will be putting photographs of the wrappers on our new website.
I have read that the candy business is recession-resistant. Is this true? Can we look forward to VALOMILK for generations to come?
Historically candy bars have been recession-proof. In the Great Depression, people could find five pennies or come up with a nickel to treat themselves. I have heard many stories about this.
Our son Dave runs the factory and we have grandchildren who might want to carry on the tradition. At least they like to eat our VALOMILKS. And yes, I like our VALOMILKS. I just had one cup (I need to watch my boyish figure).
Thanks Again to Russ Sifers for reviving VALOMILKS and taking the time to talk with me. I look forward to eating Sifers VALOMILKS for years to come (keep up the good work Dave). For more information about VALOMILK, check out the official website.